From Software have been on a really good streak ever since releasing Demon’s Souls back in 2009. All the subsequent Souls games and Bloodborne have turned out to be amazing games in their own right. Dark Souls 3 is supposed to be the last of the Souls games and is helmed by director Hidetaka Miyazaki who didn’t work on Dark Souls 2.
It is really difficult to get sequels right especially one that comes after three critically acclaimed games. I played the Japanese version of Dark Souls 3 on the PS4 so didn’t really spend too much time on character creation. I chose a Knight who gets a 100 physical damage block shield from the get go which came in really handy early on.
My main goal for the first playthrough was to create a strength/dexterity build character. Dark Souls 3 has new options like Vitality which increases the weight limit. No idea why they made this a separate stat but I had to put some points in this to keep my weight at the 70% treshold for fast rolls. Of course there are rings in the game that increases the weight limit by 15% so that’s helpful.
Dark Souls 3 doesn’t have a hub system like Demon’s Souls, but there’s a central area with a firekeeper, bonfire and NPCs that sell you stuff. The bonfire allows you to teleport to other areas provided you have discovered them. It also allows you to store your items in the stash. The world isn’t as interconnected as the one in Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2 but its quite larger and is a lot of fun to explore.
After playing Bloodborne for a crazy amount of hours, it kind of feels weird and pretty nice too to go back to a shield. The starting Knight shield is something you can use for the entire game. The enemies in this game are extremely aggressive and hit like a tank so don’t think that you can turtle with a shield. It’s a great way to encourage players to be attack more and be aggressive as well.
In Dark Souls 3, I found myself getting smashed by regular enemies more than the actual bosses. While most of the normal enemies have a simple moveset, it’s difficult to stunlock them so get ready to trade blows a lot. Backstabbing and parries are back but parries won’t work when using a medium to heavy shield. Backstabbing is fun as ever but there are some enemies who try to stop you from circling around them.
The first few hours of the game are not that exciting. Basically you fight a tutorial boss and are introduced to the firelink shrine. The difficulty gradually increases as well the quality of enemies and bosses you face. After beating a few early bosses, the game just throws some quality content at you and it lasts till you finish the game.
In Dark Souls 3 you are tasked with defeating the Lords of Cinder. These are the main bosses in the game. There are other no-so-important bosses as well but they are quite fun to fight too. There are around 19 (?) bosses in the game including a bunch of optional ones.
This game features a lot of unique bosses and while they are not ultra difficult like some of the bosses in the previous games, they are incredibly fun to fight. The last boss in particular is the best designed boss in the entire series including Bloodborne. It is highly recommended to do this fight solo instead of taking the easy way out by summoning sunbros.
The game took me around 50 hours to complete, and it could’ve been done a lot sooner had I not wasted time in just helping people with boss fights. Yes, the system is quite similar to the one in Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2. You leave a sign and hope people summon you for the fight. You don’t have to be human to go into someone’s world. To become human you can consume an ember which restores your full health and allows you to summon people into your world. Successfully defeating a boss for someone will get you an ember and souls. It’s the best way to farm them.
There are many weapons, armour and shields in the game. Considering Bloodborne didn’t have a lot of choices when it comes to gear, it feels great to play a game like Dark Souls 3 where you have so many options. You can pretty much go with any build. Defeating bosses will get you their special souls which you can trade for weapons and spells or just consume for a great amount of souls. I used the Ithryll sword for most of the game and upgraded it fully using Twinkling Titanite which was quite hard to find.
Resources are scarce early on but you get tons of them as you progress through the game. Every weapon has an upgrade path and you can also infuse weapons with elemental properties from blacksmith Andre in the firelink shrine. He will also increase the amount of Estus you can carry provided you find shards for him. There’s another Estus flask in the game which replenishes your Focus Points. You can choose the ratio at Andre the blacksmith.
Dark Souls 3’s spells are tied to Focus Points which limits the amount of spells you can use. I do not like this system as it makes me feel too shackled. There are sorcery, miracle, hex, and pyro spells that you can access after finding or buying them by leveling up stats like faith. It’s quite difficult to use them if you go with a strength build but I was able to equip a bunch of simple pyro spells which came in handy. You can also respec your character after talking to an NPC in Cathedral of the Deep. Of course, you would need to do multiple playthroughs to check out everything the game has to offer.
The magic spells are quite weak compared to the ones in Dark Souls 2. The Lightning Spear barely manages to kill low level enemies in one hit and it was quite amazing in the previous games. There must be something wrong with the scaling and From Software needs to patch this immediately or at least buff the spells. It is no fun playing as a magic user because when you factor in the aggressive enemies, you will most likely die a lot.
The PvP is decent and a slight step backwards compared to Dark Souls 2 which had the best PvP system in the entire series. The new signature moves which can be activated using L2 is abused a lot in PvP. Most fights usually come down to who has the most Estus flasks left. However, I did have a 5 minute fight with an invader and eventually won and that was really satisfying. The PvP needs a little work as I’ve found there’s a bit of delay in when you press a button and when the action happens on the screen.
The levels are huge and varied and it will bring back memories of the past games. They are an absolute joy to explore filled with secrets and branching paths. When you combine that with incredible bosses and aggressive enemies, it makes Dark Souls 3 easily the best Souls game. There are no terrible levels like The Gutter or Blighttown, each one of them is fairly large and you do not get a cramped feeling. There is a poison swamp level though, but it’s not too bad.
Dark Souls 3 feels like a game that has all the positives of the previous games. You will find amazing levels, great bosses, tons of secrets, gestures, huge collection of weapons, spells and shields; as well as aggressive enemies that won’t allow you to turtle. As a Souls fan, I was incredibly satisfied after beating this game. It just keeps getting better and better. I would recommend Dark Souls 3 to veterans and newcomers alike. It is a masterpiece.
Note: A PS4 Japanese digital copy was purchased by the author for reviewing this game.